Ridership on the redesigned Saratoga Springs bus routes nearly tripled last year, surpassing the Capital District Transportation Authority’s goal to double the number of riders.
CDTA reported 122,022 people rode the four routes between their July introduction and the end of the year, compared to 43,510 people during the same period in 2006.
Half of last year’s riders caught a lift on the popular Route 50 bus, which goes from Schenectady to the Wilton Mall with stops along the way on Route 50 and in downtown Saratoga Springs, said Margo Janack, CDTA spokeswoman.
Janack credited the increased numbers to better connections between buses and routes that meet people’s needs. CDTA officials sat down with residents and community groups before unveiling the new routes last summer, tailoring some routes to stop at senior apartment buildings, for example.
Higher gas prices also likely played a role, as fares remained at $1 a ride.
Ridership is still light on the two additional lines CDTA introduced in November, the City Shuttle in Saratoga Springs and the County Shuttle, which heads to outlying communities like Rock City Falls, Victory Mills, Galway and Malta.
Starting March 3, CDTA will tweak the County Shuttle routes to meet riders’ demand. The Galway and Schuylerville routes will end at the Wilton Mall instead of Congress Park. Galway customers will still be able to stop at Congress Park in addition to the mall, and Schuylerville riders stopping at Wilton Mall can take a transfer to Congress Park.
Schedule times will change to accommodate the revisions, Janack said.
She said throughout the CDTA system, about 70 percent of riders use the buses to head to work, while others ride to shopping centers and tourist attractions.
CDTA may consider adding more buses to the Northway Commuter Express that takes commuters from as far north as South Glens Falls to downtown Albany. Ridership increased 1 percent last year and the buses are pretty packed during rush hour, Janack said.
“There’s starting to be more demand to add buses during peak hours.”
More buses can’t be added unless people use what’s already in place, noted Cheryl Keyrouze, co-chairwoman of the Citizens Transportation Committee of Saratoga County.
“They can’t bring in new buses without demand,” said Keyrouze, who wants to use her group to work with local governments and figure out how to teach people to use public transportation.
As area baby boomers get older, the need for public transportation will be even more acute, especially since that generation was born around the time many people migrated out of cities to the suburbs and drove their cars everywhere.
“There’s a good percentage of these people who have never ridden a bus before,” Keyrouze said. “We’ve got to be really prepared for this generation.”
The high cost of housing in Saratoga Springs also creates a need for better transportation, as people move to outlying areas where they can buy cheaper houses. “That puts them just that much farther away from where they work.”
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